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Present perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like She's called every day this week, I've broken my leg and Have you ever been to Scotland?

Look at these examples to see how the present perfect is used.

He's been to ten different countries.
I haven't seen her today.
My phone's run out of battery. Can I use yours?
Have you ever dyed your hair a different colour?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Present perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Unfinished time and states

We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year, etc., and with expressions such as so far, until now, before, etc.

They've been on holiday twice this year.
We haven't had a lot of positive feedback so far.
I'm sure I've seen that film before.

We also use it to talk about life experiences, as our life is also an unfinished time period. We often use never in negative sentences and ever in questions.

I've worked for six different companies.
He's never won a gold medal.
Have you ever been to Australia?

We also use the present perfect to talk about unfinished states, especially with for, since and how long.

She's wanted to be a police officer since she was a child.
I haven't known him for very long.
How long have you had that phone?

Finished time and states

If we say when something happened, or we feel that that part of our life is finished, we use the past simple.

We visited Russia for the first time in 1992.
I went to three different primary schools.
Before she retired, she worked in several different countries.

We also use the past simple for finished states.

We knew all our neighbours when we were children.
I didn't like bananas for a really long time. Now I love them!

Past actions with a result in the present 

We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present.

He's broken his leg so he can't go on holiday.
There's been an accident on the main road, so let's take a different route.
They haven't called me, so I don't think they need me today.

Again, if we say when it happened, we use the past simple.

He broke his leg last week so he can't go on holiday.

However, we often use the present perfect with words like just, recently, already, yet and still.

We've recently started going to the gym.
She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two.
Have you checked your emails yet?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Present perfect: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Hello Tim,

I think most native speakers would use the past simple to express such a sequence of actions in most situations.

If, however, someone was casting some doubt on their statement that they'd carried out these actions, then they might use the present perfect simple to emphasise that they did indeed carry them out. But they could also use the past simple or the past simple with emphatic 'did'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Is the "present perfect tense" also known as the "present perfect simple tense"?

Similarly, is the "past perfect tense" also known as the "past perfect simple tense"?

Hi magnuslin,

 

Strictly speaking, English has only two tenses: past and present (non-past). The future is expressed in a range of ways, including the use of modal verbs such as will, might, could etc.

 

Perfect and continuous are aspects, not tenses. Thus, the present perfect is a present tense with perfective aspect. The past perfect is a past tense with perfective aspect. You can add continuous aspect to each of these.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

This part about aspect is rather hard to grasp. Notwithstanding this, I suppose it is not wrong to call the present perfect a tense (i.e. the present perfect tense) right?

Hello magnuslin

You can read more about this in the Wikipedia entry on Grammatical tense. As Peter said, technically speaking, English has only two tenses. Informally, however, many teachers and grammars speak of many other tenses such as the 'present perfect tense'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I've found this frase in an exercise book: "And you haven't had a job since then?". Why not "haven't you had"?
The frase is part of a dialogue.

Hello ch14r4,

Both forms are possible. We can form questions by using question word order, as you suggest, or by adding a tag question. In conversation we can also use intonation to make a sentence into a question, and that is what is happening in your example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

If I were to say "this movie has confused and delighted us", is the second verb (i.e. delighted) in the simple past or in the present perfect simple tense? In other words, does the "has" combine with the "confused" and "delighted" to give two present perfect simple verbs, or just one, or neither (as in the "delighted" is simply in the simple past)?

Thanks!

Regards,
Tim

Hello Timothy555

I understand 'delighted' to be the verb 'has delighted' here. People very commonly leave out some words when they believe the context will make the meaning clear. Ultimately there is no way to know for sure without referring to context or asking the speaker, but most of the time that isn't really an issue.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Good evening! And thank you for the great material! I have always had a question about "just". Can we use it with the past simple form like: "I just did it.". And one more question. In the above example (Before she retired, she worked in several different countries), can we use "had worked" instead of "worked"? And if yes, what is the difference?

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